transparencyTo a consumer, the word transparency means clarity and being upfront with the true cost of a product or commodity. It’s a great concept, but how often does it happen? If consumers assume you’re being transparent and then you hit them with things they didn’t expect…well, that’s when resentments happen.

Ever buy a set of tires for your car? The price is typically posted on a little sign right on the tires. Let’s say it’s $79 per tire. It falls within your budget so you tell the salesperson, “Great! I’ll take four, please.”

But then you learn that’s not quite what you’ll be paying.

It turns out, there are hidden fees you didn’t know even know were there. There’s the installation fee. The balancing fee. The mounting fee. A fee if you get nitrogen-filled tires versus traditional air-filled tires, and more. After all these hidden or undisclosed fees are added in, you’re now paying well over $100 per tire. It turns out, the PRICE of the tires is $79. But what’s the real cost?

What’s The Cost To Change An Airline Ticket?

Now think about the last flight you took. After you bought your ticket, were you shocked to discover lots of “hidden” fees that you had no idea even existed?
Need to change your seat? Fee.
What about changing your arrival or departure date? Fee.
Want to change your destination? Fee.
And goodness, what if you want to check a bag? Well, there’s a fee for that too.

By this point, whether you’re buying tires or trying to plan a vacation, you’re frustrated. You may even feel cheated or swindled. That’s hardly a recipe for creating a happy, satisfied customer.


Southwest Airlines just might have found a solution. Using a clever play on words, they call it “TransFAREncy.” Their tag line says it all: Low fares. Nothing to hide.

Reassuring, isn’t it?

We need the equivalent of TransFAREncy in healthcare. The whole process has become too complicated. Medical bills for office visits, follow up care, or emergency procedures all typically have hidden costs that aren’t always known at the time of treatment. And although most of us know what our co-pay is because it’s printed right on our insurance cards, how confident are we up front of what the final bill will be after the insurance companies process it?
Hidden medical costs become a “gotcha” moment when patients see the final bill.

Take it one step further and consider the unintended consequence or impact. The patient may say or think, “Next time, I’m not going back … unless I’m dying.”


Think of that? Do we really want patients and their families to feel swindled? They may have received the best clinical care, but if the costs aren’t communicated up front whenever possible (as they so often are not), patients might feel the need to delay treatment to avoid an unexpected financial burden.

Unintended expectations can lead to unexpected resentments.

So what’s the solution? Transparency. As much as possible. We may not have complete control over the direct and indirect fees associated with healthcare, but by communicating these costs in a realistic and practical manner – as far in advance as possible – we can help alleviate stress, fear, and anxiety among our patients and their families.

What do you think? What barriers are in place at your organization that prevent patients from knowing the true costs of care? And what can be done to remove these barriers and create more transparency?